Options for Raptors president Masai Ujiri next season are limited and his best scenario will be to stay the course says Basketball Insiders editor Steve Kyler in his look at the future in Toronto.
1. Attacking the free agent market to get better next next season isn’t an option as Ujiri has no real cap space to work with again this summer.
even if the Raptors said no thank you to all of their free agents, they would enter the off-season with $24.188 million in cap space. Said differently, that’s not even room for one max free agent.
2. Kyle Lowry will re-sign with the Raptors. For lots of reasons other than just the money. Lowry loves his life in Toronto and considers DeMar DeRozan “family.” Besides, there just aren’t many landing spots out there for a 31-year-old All-Star point guard that wants to win and get paid.
As much as people want to speculate about the future landing spot for Lowry, the likely outcome of the situation is he re-signs in Toronto on a whopper of a contract.
3. Serge Ibaka wanted to be traded to Toronto and the Raptors have done everything they could to make Ibaka love the move. Over and over again Ibaka has said he wants to play more at center and coach Casey accommodated him and not just to make Ibaka happy. Ujiri wants changes and Ibaka is the kind of change (a stretch-five that blocks shots) this team is looking for. Expect Ibaka to be back on a new $100 million plus contract.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri had been after Ibaka in trade for some time. Most in NBA circles believe that Ibaka made it clear to the Magic the only team he wanted to land with was Toronto
4. Patrick Patterson is likely the odd man out in free agency. He’s a “3-and-D” power forward that seems to get hurt every season and then loses his stroke. The Raptors would like to keep him as a backup power forward if the price is right, but the risk in free agency is he gets priced out of his value to Toronto.
As good as Patrick Patterson has been for the Raptors, he may be priced too high if they can reach deals with Lowry and Ibaka.
5. P.J. Tucker is a guy Ujiri acquired to fill a gaping hole at combo-forward and he impressed big time during the postseason. The Raptors want him back, but Tucker made it really clear after the season he wants to come back only if the Raptors are keeping their big name free agents – especially Lowry.
P.J Tucker has said he’d like to be back with the Raptors and his price tag might be reasonable enough to work even if the Raptors pay out big money to Lowry and Ibaka.
6. Ujiri will be active in the trade market, if not right away in July, later in the summer as teams are trying to fill holes in their rosters or ahead of the trade deadline. Moving one of his big contracts like DeMarre Carroll would make paying the luxury tax bill from re-signing his own free agents much less painful.
the situation becomes easier if the Raptors can off-load a bigger contract that no longer fits the plan going forward
Even Jonas Valanciunas could be on the block if the goal is to start Ibaka at center and let the cheaper Lucas Nogueira and Jakob Poeltl compete for the backup center role.
As much as Jonas Valanciunas has meant to the Raptors, moving his $15.46 million salary would solve more problems for the future than he does as a player.
The Raptors are a 50 win team that been to the postseason four straight years and to stay on the radar in hockey-mad Toronto, that’s pretty much the floor and Ujiri knows it. The Raptors will “try to change the culture,” but they aren’t going to tank to do it. At least not voluntarily.
Look for head coach Dwane Casey and his two All-Stars, Lowry and DeRozan, to be back in Toronto again next season putting together another 50 win season and hoping they’ve found the magic (Ibaka) that can take them up another level. As Kyler explains, they don’t have much choice.
Be sure to check out all of Kyler’s analysis here.